In Search of A Good Night’s Sleep – What is the best natural sleep supplement?


Restorative sleep is essential to good health. But it can be challenging for people to achieve it. With our busy schedules and the stressors of daily life, many people are not getting enough quality sleep. Fortunately, we are learning more about the mechanisms involved in sleep. By understanding these mechanisms, we can develop nutritional support plans utilizing key nutrients and herbs to promote healthy sleep.

Why is sleep so important?

It is a well-established fact that proper sleep is essential to nearly every bodily function, from emotional stability and cognitive function to our overall immune health. The circadian cycle regulates multiple restorative functions required for optimal health.

Both our short and long-term health are impacted by poor sleep. In the short-term, a few nights of inadequate sleep can cause fatigue, irritability, mood dysregulation, concentration, and memory issues. Even just one sleepless night can cause symptoms that mimic ADHD or mood disorders.

The long-term impacts of consistently insufficient sleep are even more severe and may be a risk factor for more complex issues. Proper immune function requires restorative sleep, and thus, it is common for people to get sick more often when not getting the sleep they need.

Multiple hormones are regulated by the circadian cycle, including growth hormone, which is needed to repair the body. Sleep is also the time when our detoxification functions operate. These are especially critical for the brain and key organs.

What are the primary biologic factors that are needed for sleep?

Sleep has two primary mechanisms involved in its regulation. The circadian cycle responds to the 24-hour day and night cycle. The dark of night activates the Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN) in the hypothalamus, which communicates to the pineal gland to release melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that helps to calm the central nervous system and enable deep sleep. The sunlight in the morning signals the body to shut this system off and increase cortisol to help you wake up. The SCN is considered to be the body’s master clock.

The ventrolateral preoptic nucleus (VLPO) is the other aspect of the sleep mechanism that participates in releasing neurotransmitters, such as γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep.

What are the factors that disrupt sleep?

Stress and stress hormones

Overly busy, high-stress lifestyles are not conducive to restorative sleep. People with high stress levels frequently have elevated cortisol levels, which, while essential for waking up in the morning, disrupts falling and staying asleep.

Caffeine consumption

People often use stimulants like caffeine to stay awake and function after not sleeping. But caffeine lingers in our system for hours, decreasing future sleep quality and forming a negative dependent relationship.

Alcohol usage

Alcohol, which people use to relax, often in the evening, also interferes with sleep. While alcohol can provide a feeling of being in a relaxed state, it is deceptive. Alcohol is a depressant and provides the illusion of being relaxed; what it actually does is affect our hormones and cognitive function, providing a false sense of “being relaxed.” It does not enable “rest” but instead increases levels of cortisol. So even if a person can achieve sleep while using alcohol, that sleep quality is severely negatively impacted and is not restorative. This damaging effect compounds with consistent usage.


Poor sleep habits can interfere with the circadian cycle. Shift work during evening hours disrupts the normal circadian rhythm. Increased exposure to blue light and EMFs from our devices interferes with our autonomic perception of the day-night cycle, disrupting the circadian rhythm and dysregulating melatonin levels. The physical environment, such as the room temperature, bedding, and ambient noise, can also impact how well a person sleeps. Having set sleep times and good sleep hygiene, such as turning off electronics two hours before bed, can be helpful for consistent sleep.

What are the best natural supplements to help improve sleep?

As we’ve seen, sleep issues vary in their cause and effect. There are many natural sleep supplements to choose from to support healthy sleep. When considering the best natural sleep supplement, it is essential to utilize nutrients and herbs to address the multiple mechanisms necessary to support healthy sleep.  It is also crucial to target the underlying pathology of sleep issues, such as low levels of neurotransmitters like GABA.

Several amino acids are helpful for sleep, such as glycine, GABA, L-theanine, and 5-HTP. These amino acids can have synergistic effects on sleep mechanisms.

These targeted amino acids can be combined with calming herbs for synergetic anxiolytic support. Valerian root, Magnolia, and Lemon Balm are well known for their relaxing properties, which can help people fall asleep and improve sleep quality. Many common medicinal herbs, such as curcumin and the above three, support a healthy inflammatory process, which helps overall sleep quality. Supporting healthy histamine levels is also helpful.  Nigella sativa and Stinging Nettle are natural histamine blockers that can obstruct histamine from binding to its receptors.


Sleep is vital for both short-term and long-term health. When looking to improve the quality of your sleep, it is vital to evaluate aspects of your lifestyle and to try to make healthy adjustments. That, combined with targeted herbs and amino acids, can help set you on the path to relaxation and restorative sleep.